The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking down your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. – Mark Twain
Keeping score in your organization is important. By setting goals, our teams are able to stay on track and know where we are on the path to achieving our mission. The ultimate score is important – for us at Southwest Michigan First that would be jobs creation – but we also have to set smaller goals to lead us along the way. Think of these goals as “mile markers” along your path to achieving success in your mission. If we don’t set these kinds of goals, we could end up too far down the road of being irrelevant and unable to change course quickly.
At Southwest Michigan First, our team gathers together in front of our wall-sized, baseball-style scoreboard every two weeks for an update on our goals. We track a dozen or so different measures that the whole team clearly understands and is always working towards. On the scoreboard you will find both our internal team goals as well as our 10-year plan of regional goals to achieve by 2022. Having these goals prominently displayed in the office makes it impossible to forget our direction and lose sight of where we need to be. Plus, it shows everyone who visits our office what is important to us. By making our goals public, we are holding ourselves to an even higher standard.
By being open with our clients and contributors about where we are succeeding and failing, it allows others in the community to help us build upon our capacity. We have had guests come in, see our scoreboard and say, “I can help with that,” in reference to a specific measure. Since we are community-focused and regionally-minded, this is exactly what we need to be impactful.
Likewise, each individual team member has specific measures that they are working towards and holding themselves accountable to. We refer to this process as being the “CEO of your own responsibilities.” CEOs have a special insight where they get to see the measures and the results agreed upon with their board of directors. They understand they are accountable to seeing this work through and reporting back to the board. As an organization, we believe we have that same level of accountability all the way down the line. Every person in the organization is self-managed. Our process looks like this: We meet on an annual basis to define what we are going to measure individually and what that progress should look like. Then each team member meets with me every 40 days on a one-on-one basis to talk about how they are doing in achieving their goals. During this conversation not only do they report on their work, I ask them specific questions like:
- What are the resources you need to succeed?
- If something’s not working, how can we adjust course to make it work?
- What are the impediments to growth? Can I help remove them?
- What should we quit doing?
We find that by having this process in place, we rarely miss goals. It really takes something big, and often times beyond our control, to not hit the mark. And it isn’t that we are successful because our goals are low – we actually increase goals annually. Rather, we find success because we check on our goals regularly and ask the right questions.
I realize that this all sounds so simple and probably like something you’ve heard a million times before, but how many of us are actually utilizing a goal-setting and measuring process with our teams or in our personal lives? In the case of organizations, they are like team sports. If one person misses the mark, we all do. Setting goals and being intentional about tracking them helps eliminate this risk.
Question: What goals are included on your “scoreboard?” Have you been intentional about tracking their success?
Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. – Guillaume Apollinaire
Growing up in the South, Mardi Gras was something we celebrated every year. But not the way you see it on Bourbon Street in New Orleans – that is mostly for tourists. However, we did attend several parties throughout the season where there was always one star: the gumbo. Everyone made it their own, unique way and every guest was obligated to try each host’s gumbo, their labor of love, throughout the Mardi Gras weekend. This was a “requirement” we were more than happy to fulfill.
To help share this important tradition for my family with the team at Southwest Michigan First, each year I host a Mardi Gras team lunch. We order in mufulettas, a traditional Mardi Gras sandwich filled with Italian meats, olive salad and a hearty bread, and shrimp po’ boy sandwiches. The best part for me is cooking my “famous” gumbo and sharing it with my work family. This year, my gumbo included quail, duck, Andouille sausage flown in from New Orleans, beef sausage and local, farm raised chicken, plus my secret blend of seasonings. The team tried their best to get me to share the recipe, but I just can’t. Half the fun of the season is everyone making their own special version of gumbo. It’s just not the same if you have each other’s recipes.
Following the hearty team meal, we shared a king cake – named and decorated in honor of the three wise men who made the long journey to worship the baby Jesus. King cake season extends from Christmas to Mardi Gras, right before the start of Lent and is traditionally a ring of twisted cinnamon roll dough topped with icing and sugar that is colored purple, green and gold – the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Somewhere within each king cake is a tiny plastic baby representing the Christ child. The tradition with a king cake is that each person must cut their own piece of cake, and whoever ends up with the baby inside their piece will be blessed with good fortune throughout the year. Plus they have to buy the king cake next year! (Our team blissfully ignores this part of the tradition though).
Why am I sharing all of this with you today? Just for fun. Like the quote above says, sometimes it’s good to stop in all of our important pursuits to just be happy – and enjoy some delicious gumbo with good friends, family or team members.
May you have a great Mardi Gras this year and always!
Question: As leaders, what traditions are important to you that you could share within your teams and organizations?
Collaboration amplifies success. - Brad Lomenick
As organizations grow, trust becomes one of those issues that you see bubble up from time to time. It doesn’t matter if you are growing a small business or a specific division within a large business, trust is something that takes time to grow alongside your organization’s growth.
Think about it in terms of sports teams. When you have just a couple of people in your organization, it is most like a relay team in track. Here you essentially have four great sprinters that all need to show up and use their individual gifts and strengths, while collaborating for a very small fraction of time during the baton hand-off. If everyone is “on” that day and the hand-offs go smoothly, you can win the race.
The next level of growth is more like a basketball team where you have five players on the court at all times and a full bench of support players. You may have a few All Stars and times where you see great individual performances, but in order to win, your team must collaborate. On offense, the team must run plays together. You have to trust that when you throw up an alley-oop that your teammate will catch the ball and score. That’s why they keep stats on assists in basketball – if you don’t have the assist, you don’t have the score. On defense, you have to trust that if someone gets by you that your teammate is behind you to pick up that player. It doesn’t matter how great a player you are, without a great team around you, the organization will not win.
But then you get to the point where you begin to look like a hockey team – without a number you can’t really tell who the players are. This type of organization is moving so fast that your level of trust needs to be high in order to accommodate the level of speed and quick decision making that is required. The players are coming on and off the ice in waves, knowing that when one player is coming on, another player is getting off. Somebody’s always got your back. When you’re vulnerable, there are always others looking out for your best interests.
Trust in organizations develops over time – but we have to remember that we aren’t switching athletes as we grow our teams. We aren’t picking up basketball players and leaving the track runners behind. We have to learn how to morph the track stars into great basketball teammates and even better hockey players. We have to teach our “athletes” different skills as we grow in order to remain successful. When this doesn’t happen, or is slow to happen, a lot of times it gets labeled as trust issues or is confused with mistrust. The opposite of trust in an organization really isn’t direct mistrust – it’s a lack of understanding or a lack of comfort with teammates we don’t know well. This is all fostered from a lack of interaction. A football team is a great example of this. When you play offense, you don’t really know the defensive squad. When you play defense, you may not really know the special teams players; and for this reason, you might sense a lack of trust. In the National Football League (NFL) the players on different units who do know and trust each other are friends because their wives sit together at the games or they are involved in the same charitable work. That’s how they become close – not in the clubhouse or the locker room or on the field.
As leaders of organizations, we have to make sure that our team members interact with each other outside of the board room. It’s one of the reasons we move offices around and put people who don’t normally work together in the same office space. This is why we play kickball or paint canvases on a Friday afternoon – not because we don’t have enough work to do, but because we are intentionally creating environments to build appreciation and trust. We need to understand that we are not competing with each other in traditional ways of “climbing the corporate ladder.” We are competing together to meet our mission around the belief that the greatest force for change is a job. Our work as an organization is never done; and our work as leaders, to grow trust among our growing teams, is never completely finished either.
Question: What could you do in your organization to grow trust among your “athletes” or team members?
U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, representing Michigan’s 6th district, recently stopped by our offices at Southwest Michigan First to co-host First & Foremost, a monthly meeting designed to bring together community leaders who support our mission to discuss the various issues that will help propel our Southwest Michigan Region to further greatness. In addition to representing our region in Washington D.C., Fred also commits his time to serving on our Board of Directors at Southwest Michigan First. Following his time with us last month, we had a few more questions for Fred about his leadership journey and wanted to share his insight with all of you. Take a look…
Ron: Why is investing in leaders, both existing and emerging, important for the Southwest Michigan Region?
Fred: There is no question investing in local leaders has been a very positive force in our community. Yes, we are diverse and that is one of our strengths. As I look at similar congressional districts – those with an urban core, university and adjacent rural areas – we are head and shoulders above them in just about any quality of life measurement you want to use. Why? Because of the leadership and investment made in the community by folks in all walks of life. Our leaders are not afraid to confront, challenge and master the complex issues before us. Southwest Michigan First serves as a catalyst for detailing our goals and measuring our progress. I am pleased to be on their board.
Ron: Likewise, leaders should invest in themselves. What are the top books that most influenced you as a leader and why?
Fred: If you regularly watch C-SPAN, you’ll often hear good arguments on both sides of just about every issue under the sun. I’ve been blessed to surround myself with a very strong staff. They are, frankly, brilliant on energy, trade, and health issues and they work together to form a respected team that gets things done. By keeping my door open to virtually all viewpoints, I know I get the best information
As for books, I have always read a wide variety of books and have had the opportunity to meet great authors, including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tom Clancy, Stephen Ambrose and David McCullough. Team of Rivals stands out as one of my favorites. It details the complexities of governing and the successful strategy employed by President Lincoln. The River of Doubt outlines America and the world as it was only 100 years ago. It details the incredible journey by President Teddy Roosevelt in South America that nearly cost him his life.
Ron: I think you’ll agree, even as existing leaders, we never stop learning and improving. Who most influences you in your ongoing leadership journey and why?
Fred: First and foremost is the influence of my wife and family. She is a minister and a volunteer hospital chaplain. When we get home from work, Amey has often had the rougher day. She has spent hours and hours trying to comfort a family in real need as they struggle with the loss of a mother or father, sister, brother, cousin, friend. She is the shoulder to cry on as they grieve and the willing listener as they remember many great moments during the course of a lifetime. She keeps me humble.
I continue to strongly admire our veterans and their families. The sacrifice they make is unbelievably challenging and I am humbled by their unflagging dedication.
I probably don’t fit the “description” of a Congressman. So when I’m flying back and forth to Washington, I tell folks I sit next to on the plane that I do “policy stuff.” Then I quiz them about their jobs and their outlooks on issues. We should never stop learning from others because if we don’t listen, we’ll only hear ourselves.
Southwest Michigan First is grateful to Congressman Fred Upton for sharing his leadership with us through participating in First & Foremost, being involved on our Board of Directors, sharing his insights on the Always Forward blog and of course, serving our great region in Washington. I have no doubts that his willingness to share these comments will inspire other leaders to better serve their communities as well.
Question: In what ways can you use your leadership gifts to serve the community in which you live, work and play?
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. – Rumi
Earlier this week I shared 7 Signs You are Burning Out Your Team. If any of those signs resonated with you in your organization, do not fear. There are many ways you can engage with your team to put out burnout and improve the work environment almost immediately.
- The team has to know that the leader appreciates them. Simple things can be done to show appreciation – even things that seem silly. When you first join our team at Southwest Michigan First, we ask you what you like to drink. So, if you’re a Yoohoo fan (only the world’s greatest processed chocolate beverage) or love to drink Diet Dr. Pepper, we’ll get it for you and stock it in the refrigerator. It’s an easy way to show appreciation and show someone they are important. Great leaders also write notes to tell team members they are doing great work and “thank you.” Small acts of appreciation go a long way.
- Acknowledge success when it happens. Why do we want to wait until a calendar period to acknowledge success, annually or quarterly? We don’t want until the end of the game to applaud athletes. We applaud them when they come up to bat, we applaud them when they get a hit and we applaud when they round third base to score at home. There’s a reason there is a home field advantage. If athletes perform better with more encouragement, why not apply that principle to our teams? Let’s applaud and encourage our teams in real-time.
- Give your team the resources they need to succeed. Sometimes we get so caught up in achieving goals or hitting our measures that we forget to ask, do you have what you need to succeed? It is the leader’s responsibility to ask that question at every turn. We need to ensure our team has the time, talent and treasure they need to meet the challenges we set before them or they will get discouraged.
- Make your team take vacation – even if it’s a “staycation.” I never hear leaders protest that they are giving their team too much vacation time at the beginning of the year. But, at the end of the year, I inevitably hear leaders complain that their team members all have to take off the last several weeks of the year because they have tons of unused vacation time. As the leader, you are to blame for that. You didn’t give them permission, or push them, to use that time during the year. The best performing people have to recharge their batteries. Your team will perform better if they know they have permission to take time off with the leader’s full support and the support of their team to know their jobs will be somewhat taken care of in their absence.
- Good leaders focus on wellness. And this is not necessarily fitness. You don’t have to spend money on remodeling a fitness room for your team or on personal trainers. Leaders need to address wellness where it meets the needs of the team. Maybe your team is struggling with financial concerns of making their mortgage payment or where to send their child to daycare. If we take care of these stressors in the lives of our teams through offering financial coaching or daycare referrals, our team members will perform better. Take a holistic approach when it comes to wellness at your organization and think outside the box.
- Help people see their career future within or outside of your organization. You can’t want more for people than they want for themselves, but you can find out what they want by simply asking! What do you want for your future? It’s the leader’s job to help team members achieve the jobs of the dreams. Use your resources to open doors for your team. Give your time in coaching their leadership. The better we expand, grow and build leaders, the better our organizations will be.
- Compensate your team generously. Money isn’t everything, but it is a tangible way that you can show your team how much you value them. Team members may leave our organization to pursue a different career path or to take the next step in achieving their dream job, but I will not let someone leave solely because they feel underpaid or underappreciated.
- Know your team’s family. Invite family members to visit the office and “get to know” where their parent or child or spouse works. Host summer picnics or holiday parties and invite family members to show your appreciation for the time they sacrifice while their loved ones work for you. Celebrate children’s birthdays and send thank you notes to families when their loved ones are away on business travel. Family members should be an integrated extension of your work team. There is no better way to show a team member you care about them than by caring for their family.
We are in a generation where people demand the best out of their employer. We can’t get people to stay in our organizations and achieve great things if they don’t feel like leaders care about them. Great leaders care about people first. If you hire great people, engage them around the mission and vision of the organization and show them you care, they will wow you with the things they achieve.
Question: What simple change can you make in your organization today that will impact your team in a positive way?
There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. – Denis Waitley
We’ve all heard the term, “burnout.” According to Wikipedia (which yes, happens to be a fairly credible source in today’s world), burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Sound familiar? If you think your team may be experiencing more than normal burnout, take a look at these 7 signs that indicate the burnout may be coming from you – the leader.
- You no longer (or simply don’t) write encouraging notes to the members of your team because you think they will get a big head and start to underperform.
- You consider their business trips as vacation time and deny their next request to actually spend time away from the job. Leading me to the next point…
- Your team always has a great deal of unused vacation time left at the end of the year. Furthermore…
- You, as the leader, personally have unused vacation time left at the end of the year. As the leader, you may feel you need to set an example by always being at the office, but if the leader is burned out, EVERYONE can feel it.
- You don’t know why people keep quitting. Here’s a hint – it’s probably you. People don’t leave jobs or organizations, they leave bad managers. Have you lost several team members recently?
- You don’t recognize your team members’ families when you see them outside of the office, or even worse, when they are visiting in the office.
- You believe changing someone’s title equals a great promotion that they should be happy with for the next several years to come. Who needs more money when you can give the satisfaction of a title change on a business card or LinkedIn profile?
If you recognize some, or all of these traits, in your organization, you may be burning out your team whether you were intending to or not. There isn’t a magic pill you can take to have an engaged team or a work environment that people want to spend time in, but there are some easy steps you can take that your team will feel instantly. If you don’t know where to start, please be on the lookout for Thursday’s post this week where I will share some ways to put out burnout in your organization!
Question: In the meantime, what are some things you can do to reduce burnout in your organization?